Black-Eyed Susan

Photo of several black-eyed Susan flowers.
Scientific Name
Rudbeckia hirta
Asteraceae (daisies, sunflowers)

Black-eyed Susan usually is an annual herb, unbranched, very hairy. Flowerheads solitary or in loose, open clusters, terminal on the stalk, to 4 inches across. Ray flowers 8–21, rich yellow or orangish, slender. Disk hemispherical, becoming egg-shaped, deep brown to purple-brown. Blooms May–October. Leaves hairy, sessile except a few basal leaves, lanceolate, sometimes with fine teeth.

Similar species: There are 9 Rudbeckia species in Missouri. Four of the most commonly encountered are brown-eyed Susan (R. triloba, to 5 feet tall; small flowerheads to 1 inch across; leaves with coarse teeth); wild goldenglow (R. laciniata, to 9 feet tall; green disk; 6–10 yellow rays; leaves with 3–7 deeply cut lobes); Missouri black-eyed Susan (R. missouriensis, like R. hirta but smaller; very hairy; with all but lowest leaves linear); and sweet coneflower (R. subtomentosa, a hairy plant to 6 feet tall; 12–20 yellow rays per head; 3-lobed lower leaves).


Height: to 2½ feet.

Where To Find
image of Black-Eyed Susan Distribution Map

Scattered to common statewide.

Bases of bluffs, openings of moist to dry upland forests, upland prairies, and glades; also pastures, old fields, railroads, roadsides, and open, disturbed areas. This is the most abundant rudbeckia in the state and the one that prospers best in disturbed habitats.

Black-eyed Susan is widely cultivated both in gardens and as a roadside-beautification flower. Several cultivars have been developed, which have, for instance, longer ray flowers or ray flowers that are reddish.

In the 1970s, researchers explored the different patterns of reflected ultraviolet light in the corollas of this and other rudbeckias. Although UV light is invisible to humans, bees and some other insects can see it, and the special patterns in the flowers serve especially to attract them.

Media Gallery
Similar Species

Where to See Species

The Maintz Wildlife Preserve is an 804-acre area of rolling hills located in northwestern Cape Girardeau County.
Poosey Conservation Area is in northwest Livingston County, six miles southeast of Jamesport, nine miles northeast of Lock Springs, 12 miles southwest of Trenton and 13 miles northwest of Chillicothe.
This 165-acre area consists primarily of cool- and warm-season grass units interspersed with trees, mostly Osage orange and Black locust.
About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!